Brace for blue hen Hveger caps big week for Aussie breeding
Shuttle sires Choisir and Exceed And Excel contribute to success
There may not have been any Australian challengers at Royal Ascot this year but the country's breeding programme can claim a significant share of success.
Choisir and Exceed And Excel - who both travelled from their native Australia to take on the best European sprinters in the early years of the millennium, with wildly varying results – have posted winners at the royal meeting this week.
Those two sires' influence runs deep, as well. Choisir's daughter Laddies Poker Two, a Royal Ascot winner in the Wokingham Handicap of 2010, is the dam of Friday's authoritative Coronation Stakes winner Winter, while Exceed And Excel's stallion sons Excelebration and Helmet were represented by the first and third home in the St James's Palace Stakes on Tuesday, Barney Roy and Thunder Snow.
Other Australian sires Foxwedge and Lonhro made their presence felt this week too, through Ribblesdale Stakes third Hertford Dancer and Norfolk Stakes third Cardsharp.
Clearly, the influx of antipodean shuttlers in the new millennium has brought some welcome invigorating blood to the European stallion ranks.
But the benefits have not only been felt in the male line. When Australian Oaks third Hveger – a daughter of Danehill, also sire of Exceed And Excel and grandsire of Choisir and Foxwedge – produced the dual Group 1 runner-up Valdemoro to Encosta De Lago as her first foal, she caught the attention of those clever Coolmore partners who imported her to Ireland as a regular concubine for Galileo.
Mating Danehill mares to Galileo has been the most talked about cross of recent years, having produced 12 Group/Grade 1 winners including the legendary Frankel.
The breeding pattern has come up trumps again with two of Hveger's sons by Galileo, the Aidan O'Brien-trained pair of Highland Reel and Idaho, giving their dam an extraordinary double by winning the Prince of Wales's Stakes and Hardwicke Stakes within three days of each other at the royal meeting.
Royal Ascot glory is nothing new for this family, as Hveger is a half-sister to Haradasun, the Australian-bred son of Fusaichi Pegasus who won the Queen Anne Stakes for O'Brien in 2008, while Starspangledbanner, a son of Choisir whose granddam is a half-sister to Hveger's dam Circles Of Gold, landed the Golden Jubilee Stakes for O'Brien in 2010.
Starspangledbanner brought more Royal Ascot glory for the family when his first crop of two-year-olds, decimated in number because of his subfertility, yielded Coventry Stakes winner The Wow Signal and Queen Mary Stakes scorer Anthem Alexander in 2014.
Hveger's is one of the very best Australian families, as the late Circles Of Gold won the AJC Oaks and finished placed at the highest level another four times, while another of her sons Elvstroem – a half-brother to Haradasun – struck in five Group 1s including the Caulfield Cup and Dubai Duty Free.
Hveger has a three-year-old filly named Cercle De La Vie, who has finished unplaced in both her starts this year for trainer Andre Fabre and owner Markus Jooste; a two-year-old filly named Via Condotti, sold to Hubie de Burgh and James Harron for 625,000gns last year, and a yearling colt.
All of Hveger's young progeny are, of course, all by Coolmore's perennial champion sire Galileo, who the mare also visited last year.
Galileo rules the Classic sires, no question. The Scat Daddy line will doubtless be mined for sprinters and two-year-olds after a royal meeting at which he was responsible for four winners.
But for speed, strength and soundness the week has reminded us that Australian sires also do European breeders a good turn.